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Rochester calmly received news of D-Day

By Tom Weber

weber@postbulletin.com

On the day before D-Day, Rochester parents took their kids to the circus.

The Bud Anderson Circus, with 25 acts performing in three rings under the big top, was set up on June 5, 1944, at North Broadway and 12th Street in Rochester. There were two shows that day — two opportunities for those on the homefront to take their minds off battlefields where local boys were fighting in the Pacific and Europe.

Earlier that day, registration was held for swimming lessons at Soldiers Field pool. The weather, though, was anything but summery, with frost warnings for that night and unseasonably cool highs in the 50s.

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Then, in the chilly, early hours of Tuesday, June 6, word came from across the Atlantic that the long-awaited allied invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe had begun. American, Canadian and British forces had landed at Normandy in France.

The Post-Bulletin prepared an extra edition, "which was delivered as soon as sleepy carrier boys could be summoned to the office," the paper reported.

The special edition was sent to area communities where delivery could be quickly arranged. More than 1,000 copies were sold on the street, and an additional 1,000 free papers were delivered to local hospital rooms and Mayo Clinic.

Still, the Post-Bulletin reported, the news was received calmly and solemnly. After all, the invasion had been anticipated for several weeks.

"There were fewer persons on the streets than usual, many stores reported sales below normal," the newspaper said in a later, midday edition. "More families were together than on a normal week day as anxious relatives of fighting men in the European theater gathered at homes."

Servicemen who were home on leave at the time said that they felt the troops were prepared for the invasion and the battles to follow.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Gov. Edward J. Thye called for prayer. "It is a solemn day in our history and should be a prayerful one — prayers for the safety of each and every one of our young men called upon to participate in the operation."

And that’s exactly what Rochester did. St. John’s Catholic Church and in other churches had special evening services. In small family groups or as individuals, many local residents said prayers on that momentous D-Day.

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